Here we are again, at the beginning of another school year with all the hustle and bustle that comes along with the end of Summer. Every morning when the alarm sounds, I jump out of bed and get to work - making breakfast, preparing lunches, and doing a general sweep of the house so that I can begin the day with some semblance of order. Often, I feel like a farmer’s wife, awake before dawn, and completing chores before the rest of the brood stir to life. But those first few solitary hours, give me a warm feeling of success that our day has started off with purpose. In order to continue that sense of accomplishment, once everyone is out the door and to their respective school and work locations, I look ahead to what we can plan for our family dinner, ideally something I can make ahead or at least have the majority of it prepared before dinner time. My goal, which is always a challenge, is to navigate the busy work schedules, soccer practices, cross country meets, school activities, guitar lessons, etc., so we can all enjoy a family dinner together a few times a week.
To help accomplish this goal, I recently signed up for a meal planning service called Real Plans. I am still getting the hang of it, but the thing I like is that you can pick and choose how many meals you intend to make during the week (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and they have several options that cater to any diet (Whole 30, Paleo, Keto, etc.) With Real Plans, once you create your weekly menu, they take it a step further and create the corresponding shopping list along with mapping out the plan for what time is needed to prepare the meals in general. I look forward to delving in to the plan and having a better idea about what our family can eat at home, instead of last minute plans to eat out or on the go. My hope is that this plan will allow us to spend more time together at the family dinner table along with spending less money eating out at restaurants on a regular basis
Our family will continue to have our weekly Taco Tuesdays, and one or two days with crock pot or Instapot meals. I have recently made a Kalua Pig Instapot Recipe that from Nom Nom Paleo, and it is easy, delicious, and the whole family loved it. Another favorite recently added our rotation is Buffalo Chicken Meatballs, by The Real Food Dietitians. This dish can be part of a meal, or made as appetizers, which will be perfect for the upcoming football season!
A few other favorite family meals include:
- Creamy Spinach Lentil Soup
- Oven Baked Chicken Fajitas
- Chicken Tamale Casserole
- One of the classics that we have on heavy rotation is what we fondly call Chicken Stuff. It is a versatile little ditty that can be eaten on its own, in a tortilla made into impromptu enchiladas, or scooped up with tortilla chips. Start out the morning around 9:00 a.m. or so tossing a few (maybe 4) frozen chicken breasts into the crock-pot. Add about a teaspoon of cumin and pour in an entire jar of our favorite salsa. Cook on high for most of the day, then about an hour before dinner time, turn the crock pot to low, shred the chicken, toss in a can of drained pinto beans and a block of cream cheese. Mix all those ingredients together, let it cook for about another 30 minutes until the cheese is melted and VIOLA! Dinner is ready! You can get fancy and add avocado, cilantro or any other ingredient to make it your own. After dinner, I usually break it down in to lunch sized portions in plastic containers, refrigerate the containers and send to school with our kids the next day with tortillas or chips. Other variations of crock pot chicken include such as Frank’s hot sauce, a packet of ranch dressing mix and cream cheese; or bar-b-que sauce and pinto beans, just to name a few. Those two chicken variations usually get put on Hawaiian rolls and sent as a school lunch the next day.
If there are quick and easy meals you enjoy preparing and sharing, please shoot me an email so I can add them to our family meal rotation. My mom always wanted to feed anyone who stopped by for a visit, as she was instilled with the motto “Food is love.” If we can take the time to sit and eat together as family an d friends, we open ourselves up to being filled with more than just nourishment for the body, but also nourishment for our souls and minds. Enjoy!